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Monday, December 5, 2022

(Part 4) From Wasteland to Wonderland: Transforming a degraded, barren land into a sustainable organic farm resort

(Fourth of a Series)


SUKAILANG, Surigao City—In this era of climate change, exacerbated by the wasteful practice of the present consumption and production economy, many have realized that the human race has to step on the brakes and stop the continued decline of the human and environmental health and step on the accelerator of ethical agricultural practices.  
Thanks to such organic agricultural and social design techniques such as permaculture, regenerative agriculture and natural farming, ethics is beginning to make a comeback in natural mass food production. And here in Surigao City, Engr. Woodrow Escobal Jr. is the trailblazer in this race.
Knowing that self-learning is always lacking, Engr. Jun enrolled in a one-week intensive live-in seminar at the Costales Farm in Laguna to learn about natural farming. By this time, he had already quit his regular job at the DTI to focus on transforming his barren and degraded land into a sustainable integrated organic farm.
And his efforts paid off: the natural trees and grass that used to grow in the area before the heyday of the loggers and miners started to grow again, helped by the compost the Escobals dumped through the years on their land; compost made from the waste resources found on their own premises.
“Now, we can find wild animals here such as snakes, monkeys and various birds,” he said, adding: “There are even tarsiers here now.”
When a former SUNGCOD colleague, who was then working at the Provincial Agriculture Office in Surigao del Norte learned of what the Escobals have done, he referred them to the Caraga regional office of the Department of Agriculture in Butuan City (DA-13).
It was very timely since the DA was then looking for cooperators for the organic agriculture program that was being aggressively pushed by President Aquino through Sec. Proseso Alcala.
After several validation visits by personnel from the DA-13 and Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), the Escobal farm was certified and accredited as a Learning Site for Agriculture in 2016.
This accreditation and certification paved the way for others to learn about the Escobal’s success in turning a barren and degraded land into a productive farm naturally and sustainably. It also became a vehicle for their desire to “share to others how we did it to help popularize organic farming here.”
Unknown to the Escobals, the DA-ATI accreditation and certification was just the beginning of other partnership that helped spread the word about them far and wide.
In 2018, the Department of Education (DepEd) partnered with them and accredited JB Nature Farm as a School for Practical Agriculture “where senior high school students come and stay for their immersion program.” 
“Their exposure here instilled in them the realization that farming is really a noble and good profession. They learned to appreciate farming as a way of life,” he said. 
Also in 2018, the Department of Tourism (DOT) officially made JB Nature Farm and Resort it’s Farm Tourism partner, the very first farm tourism site in Surigao City. (To be continued)
(Ed’s Note: Bong Fabe is with the WWF Philippines as integrated communications manager for its SMILE Project in Siargao and Dinagat Islands, an EU-funded project being undertaken in partnership with the UP-AIT and AIEC ILAW.)

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